How much blockchain developers REALLY make?

According to Hired, blockchain developers can command salaries between 140,000 USD to 180,000 USD. Sounds amazing, right? But is it really true? A lot of these salary reports forget to mention the context of their study. In this article, we will dive into the details of the job market for blockchain developers, so that you get realistic expectations.

One note before we continue: don’t get too hung up on salary surveys. I will mention a couple in this article, but be aware that these surveys can be imprecise and not apply to your specific situation. What you really need to pay attention to are the main factors that influence salaries.

Location is everything

Very often, salary surveys are US-centric. Worst, they mostly survey developers who live in the most expensive cities, like San Fransisco or New York. So when you see very high salaries (ex: 140k USD), this is not so much due to the blockchain industry and more related to the average salary for software developers in these locations. If you were to survey developers in smaller cities, you would find that their salary is much less, regardless of them being blockchain developers or not.

For example, in London, the avarage salary for a blockchain developer is between 50 to 90k USD. A far cry from the 140-180k USD earned in the silicon valley. Still, if you compared to most jobs, that’s a decent pay. Berlin also offers a couple of well-paid blockchain jobs, with salaries slightly less that those in London. In Asia, Singapore has a decent blockchain industry as well. They pay similarly as in London.

So when you see salaries survey, make sure to understand what is the geographic area surveyed.

Token vs cash remuneration

Another important aspect of blockchain developer remuneration is payment in token / crypto. Not all blockchain companies offer this, but if they did an ICO in 2017 / 2018, they probably kept a strategic reserve of tokens for the purpose of paying developers.

Usually, blockchain companies will pay you the majority of your remuneration in cash, and will offer a bonus in crypto / token (Ethereum ERC20 tokens in most cases). These companies are in general quite willing to offer big token bonuses. After all, a lot of them raised a ton of money relatively easily during the ICO era, and they don’t feel as attached to this money as if they had painstainkenly raised it from VC.

How much token bonus can you expect then? It can range from 25pct to 100pct of your cash remuneration. In my case, I got paid a 30k USD bonus in tokens by a blockchain company. On top of my salary.

This is a big difference with non-blockchain jobs and definetly needs to be considered. This being said, you also need to weight in the fact that these tokens are usually very volatile, not liquid (i.e few buyers) and can be taxed differently than your cash remuneration (can be tax on capital gains instead of income tax). So you should definetly not treat these tokens as cash equivalent: 10k USD of token bonus is NOT as valuable to 10k USD in cash. So don’t let companies low-ball you on the cash portion because of a big crypto bonus.

Remote jobs

I just said before that location was important…but…can we jus apply to remote job where the company is located in an expensive area, like San Fransisco, and work from a cheaper country?

Sounds great right? That’s indeed a great strategy, and that’s I have been doing for a couple of years. However, you need to be aware of 3 caveats:

  • some companies that accept remote developers will pay them according to where the developers live
  • fewer companies will accept remote developers
  • those who do are very selective. A remote job is about 100x more competitive than a local one. It makes sense: instead of competing with a local pool of talent, you are competing with the whole world. To have good chances to get a remote job, you need to have a very solid experience in the tech stack you are applying for. You can still apply to remote jobs even if you are not yet very experienced. Just be aware that it will be more tough.

On the bright side, compared to other industries, blockchain companies tend to be more open to remote developers.

Blockchain vs Dapps

Another element to take into consideration is what we mean by blockchain developers. Most people think mistakenly that a blockchain developer builds blockchain..but the same way that most web developers build web applications and not web browsers, most blockchain developers build decentralized applications (Dapps) and not blockchain themselves.

Working on core infrastruture (blockchain) can pay more, but that’s far less accessible than building Dapps. In general, if you work on blockchain themselves, you will need to use C++ and Rust. Actually, a ton of Rust jobs are for blockchain. These low level languages are not very accessible to beginners. For building dapps, the king of profile that is relevant is web developers who are experienced in building web applications with Javascript, Nodejs and Python. Experience in React or other frontend framework is also welcome.

Permissioned vs public blockchains

Another very important factor for salaries in whether you will work in permissioned blockchains, like Hyperledger fabric, Quorum, or public blockchains like Ethereum. The big difference between both is that permissioned blockchains allow to create private network with private transactions, whereas public blockchains only allow to create public networks without any privacy.

For this reason, B2B applications and large companies (enterprise) are generally more interested in permissioned blockchains whereas B2C applications and smaller companies prefer to use public blockchains.

And since larger companies have more money, they can also afford to pay more. So if you don’t really mind corporate environment, you might want to decide in this nice inside the blockchain industry. Just be aware that working for large organizations is generally less fun than working for smaller companies, and than they tend to not accept remote work at all.

Another thing they don’t tell you is the local cost of living. You think that working for 140k a year in SF is great for your finances

Demand and offer for blockchain developers

The number of job posting for posting for developers has grown considerably for the past few years. This is a graph showing the growth of blockchain job until 2017. You can see that in 2017 there used to have 4000 job posting. It’s more than 12,000 in 2019.

All of this is great, but how about the offer? In any market, what matters to determine the price (i.e salary in our case) is the offer / demand ratio. It’s a bit hard to get on the number of blockchain developers, but what hiring consultants say is that it’s not easy to find blockchain developers. My personal observation on my linkedIn is that I still receive a lot more visits on my profile than when I used to mention only web development, but this is not as high as during the blockchain bubble of 2017 when there was very few blockchain developers.

So the market is still in our favor, but the gap between the offer and demand is slowly closing. It will probably remain favorable for the next few years, so don’t waste your time and get in now while it’s still good.

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